Opposing Counsel in a Divorce Case

Just as your attorney looks out for you, your spouse’s attorney should zealously protect his or her client’s interests. Sometimes you may think that it is beginning to go beyond that. The problems that flow from your spouse’s attorney seldom seem to have anything to do with the merits of your case. They simply run the bill higher, and higher, every frustrating day.

If this is happening in your case, you’re probably ready to use another word, at a minimum a term such as "agitators," to refer to the attorneys who inflame the emotions of the parties. That’s all this breed seems to do. Every detail is a showdown to them, nothing is ever worked out and each issue becomes increasingly complex. Agitators are always at court complaining about the conduct of opposing party or counsel. Often the conduct they complain of is the normal and expected response to something far worse that the agitator did. Agitators aren’t out to solve anything, just to do a lot of posturing.

An agitator may be able to prevent progress in your case for a considerable period of time. If the situation becomes intolerable, ask the judge to appoint a master, a referee with limited legal authority, to supervise discovery or other activities that the agitator is blowing all out of proportion.

An experienced agitator is tough to nail down in the sense of showing the court just how unprofessional the agitator is. If he or she already has a bad reputation in court, your attorney might convince the judge that protective orders and sanctions are necessary. Such orders are hard to get. Expect to have to go to court the first time and get only a warning that if the agitator does “this” again, the court will consider imposing a monetary fine on the agitator. Make the best of this difficult situation, move your case along as quickly as reasonable and be glad that you have an attorney to deal with this beast your spouse found.

Other opposing attorneys may passively frustrate your sincere attempts to be reasonable. Opposing attorneys who never respond to calls or letters force you to go to court when to do something that could have been done the easy way. When the other attorney won’t participate or isn’t ready, one salvation is that you will probably do better at trial because your opposition isn’t prepared.

Still other attorneys may paper you to death with numerous letters, discovery requests and court motions. There is little you can do about it. Limits on the number of interrogatories can be exceeded for good cause. Motions can always be set for court hearing, and unless they are blatantly frivolous, the court will literally go through the motions. Restrictions on how much your opposing counsel can use the legal process are unlikely because they would restrict the attorney’s ability to represent his or her client.

The general advice to move your case along as quickly as you can applies to each opposing counsel problem area. Perhaps you can convince your spouse that he or she is spending a fortune in legal fees, only to lose if your spouse has indeed lost. If so, you may get some relief. Otherwise, establish your foundation for a request for attorney’s fees and costs based upon the conduct of your opposition. Always present your position in writing throughout the case, request cooperation and then, in a matter-of-fact way, tell the other side you will seek fees if it becomes necessary.